My Week in Manga: July 25-July 31, 2011

My News and Reviews

In my latest manga giveaway, I’ve got a brand new copy of Saki Okuse and Sankichi Meguro’s Ghost Talker’s Daydream, Volume 1 up for grabs. The contest ends this Wednesday, so you still have a couple of days to get your entries in! (Manga Giveaway: Ghost Talker’s Giveaway) Also this week, I managed to sneak in my second in-depth manga review for July. Usamaru Furuya’s Lychee Light Club left quite an impression on me. It’s definitely not a manga for everyone due to its highly graphic nature, but it is well done.

Good news for Wild Adapter fans! After being put on hiatus for so long, the series has found a new home! See Wild Adapter Moves to Ichijinsha at Manga Bookshelf for more information. If you enjoyed my post about Mahjong, Kubota, and Wild Adapter and like mahjong, you might also be interested in a post mentioned by a recent commenter. Ranith at Livejournal has a very cool and detailed breakdown and analysis of an important mahjong game that takes place in Saiyuki: Part 1 and Part 2. Well, I think it’s cool anyway, but then I love mahjong.

Last week was the Fruits Basket Manga Moveable Feast. I wasn’t able to participate this time around, but there were some fantastic contributions from other manga bloggers. You can check out the archive at The Manga Curmudgeon. In other Feast news, The Manga Critic has kindly posted the schedule for the upcoming Manga Moveable Feasts (Manga Moveable Feast Schedule, 2011-12.) You’ll even see my name listed there as a host! I’m both very excited and very nervous about it.

Quick Takes

Kizuna, Volumes 1-3 by Kazuma Kodaka. There was a lot of excitement from fans when Digital Manga rescued Kizuna from the Be Beautiful imprint of the now defunct Central Park Media. As for me, I wasn’t familiar with the series until now. So far, I’m liking the characters and, for the most part, the story. The balance between the yakuza elements and the boys’ love elements is handled fairly well. The art, however, is atrociously inconsistent and oftentimes just bad, especially early on in the series. But as the manga progresses, the artwork improves immensely and some of the bonus chapters show off Kodaka’s more current and much more polished style. I’ll probably follow Kizuna a bit further.

Tetragrammaton Labyrinth, Volume 1 by Ei Itou. Tetragrammaton Labyrinth ended up being a bit more fetishy than I originally anticipated, but I guess I’m not all that surprised. The manga has a slight yuri flavor to it, but it certainly isn’t the primary focus. The artwork is probably the best thing about this particular manga, but that’s not really saying much and the action sequences are often difficult to follow. Tetragrammaton Labyrinth is somewhat of a mess, and it just didn’t work for me. I haven’t been convinced by it the plot or the characters yet. I have no problem with fan service, but Itou has an unfortunate tendency to focus this service on Angela. She might not actually be a twelve-year-old girl, but she is in the body of one.

Tokyo Tribes, Volumes 1-2 by Santa Inoue. Tokyo Tribes is another manga that just didn’t work for me this week, albeit for slightly different reasons. Inoue’s artwork is nicely stylized and the English translation and adaptation is very well done. I even really like the covers for this series. However, the manga seems to glorify gang violence and all of the women in it are treated terribly. I actually liked Tokyo Tribes less and less the more I read of it. I don’t care about any of the characters or what might happen to them. In fact, there were several characters that I actively disliked. After two volumes, I don’t feel like I want to or even need to read any more of Tokyo Tribes and so I won’t be.

Two Flowers for the Dragon, Volume 1 by Nari Kusakawa. After several disappointments this week, I was very pleased to discover that the first volume of Two Flowers for the Dragon is absolutely delightful. I definitely want to track down the rest of the series, which will unfortunately be a bit expensive since CMX is gone and the manga is out of print. The final volume sadly never even made it into English. Shakuya is the next leader of the Dragon Clan. With the blood and power of a dragon running through her veins, she’ll be responsible for protecting the Oasis. But at the moment, she needs to choose between her two fiancés. Two Flowers for the Dragon has a lovely mix of fantasy and romance. And dragons!

Cross Game, Episodes 23-35 directed by Osamu Sekita. I never expected that I would come to care about baseball so much. Not that I ever had anything against the game, I just was never really all that interested in it. Cross Game has changed that. Because baseball is important to the characters, and the characters are important to me, baseball has also become important to me (at least in the context of Cross Game.) And I’ve learned a lot about the game from the anime—I never realized how much strategy was involved. But while Cross Game is to some extent about baseball, it’s still really more about the characters. I was a little hesitant about the introduction of Akane, but so far it’s been handled well.

My Week in Manga: May 30-June 5, 2011

My News and Reviews

I was away for most of last week and the beginning of this week in order to attend a conference for work. (NASIG for those of you who are curious.) I had a good time in St. Louis and learned lots of useful things, but this did mean I didn’t get as much manga and anime in as I would have liked. It also means that this week’s “My Week in Manga” is a bit late. Forgive me, but I needed to do laundry and sleep.

Fortunately for me, last week was one of my lighter weeks at Experiments in Manga. I announced the winner of the Oh, Ono! manga giveaway and manged to successfully schedule May’s Bookshelf Overload to post while I was away. I also added two new resources to the Resources page: The Fandom Post and Manga Bubbles. For your online reading enjoyment, I would like to bring your attention to Manga Artifacts: Pineapple Army by Kate Dacey over on The Manga Critic; it’s a much better look at the manga than my quick take below provides.

Quick Takes

King of RPGs, Volume 2 written by Jason Thompson and illustrated by Victor Hao. The second volume of King of RPGs was one of my most anticipated releases for 2011. I loved the first volume so it didn’t come as much of a surprise to me that I loved the second as well. Most of the plot centers on MMORPGs and tabletop RPGs in this volume but there are still plenty of references other geek cultures, too. My favorite parts are when the role-playing insanity bleeds over into reality. Shesh, more than ever, is the main focus of this volume. However, new characters are also introduced, including the noble gold farmer Baijin Gangshi who I fairly adored. I really hope to see more volumes of King of RPGs; it’s a riot.

Pineapple Army written by Kazuya Kudo and illustrated by Naoki Urasawa. I primarily picked up Pineapple Army because of Naoki Urasawa’s involvement with the manga. In Japan, the series ran for eight volumes. You wouldn’t know this by looking at Viz’s single volume edition, though—it collects ten chapters selected from throughout the original series. They mostly stand alone, though I suspect there may be some recurring characters that I would have liked to get to know better. I’d like get to know the protagonist Jed Goshi better, too. I happened to particularly like his beefy character design and found his personality to be appealing as well. It will probably never happen, but I wouldn’t mind the rest of this series available in English.

Pretty Face, Volumes 1-6 by Yasuhiro Kano. It’s a ridiculous premise—Masashi Rando, high school karate champion, is nearly killed in a terrible bus accident. In the process of recovery, his plastic surgeon gives him the face of the girl he has a crush on since he only had her photo as a reference. Or something like that. Oh! And his crush just happens to have a missing twin sister, so Rando takes her place. Perhaps not too surprisingly, there is plenty of fan service, especially in the first few volumes although it does carry through the entire series. Narrative-wise, Pretty Face is very episodic and somewhat directionless, but there were a few moments here and there that made me genuinely laugh out loud.

Cross Game, Episodes 17-22 directed by Osamu Sekita. So, I still don’t really care about baseball all that much, but I do care about the characters of Cross Game tremendously. And since they care about baseball, I find myself at least interested in what is happening and cheer them on in their efforts. I’ve been very happy with how the characters are developing. I’m particularly fond of Azuma who turns out to be much more complicated person than he initially appeared. I’m also interested in seeing where the newer characters, like Mizuki and Azuma’s older brother, go. I’ll definitely be watching more of this series even if I don’t end up picking up more of Adachi’s original manga.

Cross Game, Volume 1

Creator: Mitsuru Adachi
U.S. publisher: Viz Media
ISBN: 9781421537580
Released: October 2010
Original release: 2005-2006
Awards: Shogakukan Manga Award

For some reason, I have been very reluctant to read Mitsuru Adachi’s manga series Cross Game. I’m not sure if it’s because the series is a sports manga or what. I’ve heard plenty of good things about Adachi and about Cross Game in particular, even from readers who aren’t particularly fond of baseball. I even read a preview of the series in Otaku USA and enjoyed it, but for some reason still couldn’t bring myself to read more of the series. My hand was finally forced when Cross Game was selected for the May 2011 Manga Moveable Feast. Because of that, I picked up the first volume released by Viz Media in 2010—equivalent to the first three volumes published in Japan between 2005 and 2006. Adachi began the series in 2005 and the seventeenth and final collected volume was released in Japan in 2010. In 2009, Cross Game was honored with a Shogakukan Manga Award. There was also a fifty episode anime adaptation of the series produced between 2009 and 2010.

The Tsukishima family, who run the local batting cages and the Clover coffee shop, and the Kitamura family, who own the sporting goods store down the street, are good friends and their children have grown up together. Wakaba, the Tsukishima’s beloved second daughter (out of four) and Ko, the Kitamura’s only son, are particularly close and even share the same birthday. It seems like fate that the two of them should be together. The only person who’s unhappy with the two being nearly inseparable is the next youngest Tsukishima daughter, Aoba. She adores Wakaba and so holds a grudge against Ko. Although Aoba won’t admit it, except for the fact that she loves baseball and Ko isn’t even really interested in the game, she actually shares quite a lot in common with him.

While there are moments in Cross Game that are absolutely heartbreaking, the manga also has quite a bit of light-hearted humor to it as well, making the series more touching rather than depressing. Ocassionally, Adachi does have the tendency to either break the fourth wall or come very close to it. I did find this amusing, but it also threw me out of the story. However, I really enjoyed the small bits focusing on the Tsukishima’s pet cat Nomo; they made me smile every time. Adachi’s art style is fairly simple and straightforward. Every once in a while it feels like the panels are a bit disjointed, usually when Adachi sets up a dramatic reveal, but overall it is very easy to follow. One thing that he does that I particularly enjoyed and appreciated is how he captures the passage of time, often using the changes in season and in the neighborhood to visually transition from chapter to chapter. This also helps to establish a sense of place and makes the town feel as well-rounded and complete as the characters.

Although there is plenty of personal drama, conflicts, and lively baseball games, I mostly find Cross Game to be a rather quiet coming of age series. Out of this volume, I preferred the first part of the story which focuses a bit more on the relationships between characters than on the baseball. But even when baseball becomes more prominent in the manga, the character interactions remain crucial and convincing. There is something subtle and very skilled in how Adachi balances the two elements. That being said, I find it strange that I’m not more gung-ho about Cross Game; for some reason it just doesn’t immediately grab me. However, I did appreciate it more and more after repeated readings. I truly care about the characters Adachi has created, even if I don’t feel compelled to immediately rush out and read more of the manga. But, I’ve discovered that the longer I wait, the more I worry about the characters and wonder how they are doing.

My Week in Manga: May 16-May 22, 2011

My News and Reviews

I’m still being a slacker, so this section is going to be rather brief again. I promise to try to do a little better next week and find some interesting stuff for you all. Last week I showed a little love for Brigid Alverson’s MangaBlog as part of my Discovering Manga feature. I also posted a review of Issui Ogawa’s The Lord of the Sands of Time, one of Haikasoru’s debut titles from way back when (okay, 2009 really wasn’t that long ago…) I enjoyed it and look forward to reading more of Ogawa’s works.

The Cross Game Manga Moveable Feast is already off to a great start so keep an eye on the index page over at The Panelists as it gets updated. As for me, I have a quick look at the first third or so of the anime adaptation and later this week I’ll be posting a review of the first Cross Game volume published by Viz (equivalent to the first three collected volumes in Japan.)

Quick Takes

Fujoshi Rumi, Volumes 2-3 by Natsumi Konjoh. I really hope we get more volumes of this series because I’m enjoying it tremendously. Abe has fallen for Rumi and hard, but the poor guy just doesn’t get otaku. He’s willing to learn, but he doesn’t always get it right and so their developing relationship is bumpy. I can’t help but root for him, though. Rumi is just starting to figure out she likes him. Chiba is having a bit more luck in his own romantic pursuits, but not by much. Both he and Matsui are incredibly stubborn. There are a ton of translations notes included to help readers keep track of all the pop culture references made, but even if you don’t take time to read them all the series is still funny.

King of RPGs, Volume 1 written by Jason Thompson and illustrated by Victor Hao. The second volume of King of RPGs is set for release this week, so I figured it was a good time reread the first volume. As a gamer, I really love this series and find it hilarious. A lot of the humor depends on at least a passing knowledge of RPGs and various other types of gaming and nerd culture. There are plenty of in-jokes and references, too, so someone not familiar with gaming will probably be lost. All sorts of nerdiness is displayed in King of RPGs: MMORPGs, table top RPGs, fantasy football, boardgames, collectible card games, miniatures, otaku, live action role playing, cosplay, Renaissance festivals, and more. And some of the characters, really, really get into what they’re playing.

Tokyo Babylon, Volumes 1-7 by CLAMP. I know quite a few people who love Tokyo Babylon, but I must admit I wasn’t particularly impressed by the early volumes. However, I did like the final few as things turn really dark and become less episodic. The series it’s actually pretty depressing; Subaru is never as successful as he would like to be and is very sensitive to those around him. And then there’s Seishirō, who proves to be problematic for him for a number of reasons. I liked CLAMP’s artwork in this manga which uses a lot of black space. I never quite got Hokuto’s sense of fashion, but I did like some of the outfits. Subaru and Seishirō’s story is apparently continued as part of CLAMP’s X series, which I haven’t read yet.

Azumi directed by Ryuhei Kitamura. Apparently the film is loosely based on Yū Koyama’s manga series Azumi, a fact I wasn’t aware of while watching the movie. Azumi is a member of group of orphans raised to be highly skilled assassians. Their mission is help secure the dominance of the Tokugawa clan by killing opposing leaders. However, the more Azumi becomes involved, the more she questions what they are doing. It’s an entertaining if somewhat mediocre film. The special effects are only okay and the choreography a bit awkward at times, although the huge battle towards the end of the film is pretty great. An interesting note on the language: Azumi speaks using a masculine form of Japanese.

Cross Game, Episodes 1-16 directed by Osamu Sekita. I’m not a huge sports fan and so I wasn’t sure if I would like the Cross Game anime or not. But from reading the manga, I did know that I at least liked the characters. So far, I find the anime a little slow going for my own personal taste, but I still enjoyed watching it and will probably watch more. The slower pacing works for the manga, but doesn’t transfer over to the adaptation quite as well. Or maybe it’s just that I can read through the baseball games (which don’t really interest me) more quickly than I can watch them. The anime does change up some things from the original, keeping it interesting even if you have read the manga.